While we want our kids to relax after a grueling school year, it's important their brains and bodies don't turn to mush while school's out.
There are many productive things kids can do, but here is our list of top twelve skills they should learn to succeed in school and beyond.
1. Learn self-defense
As much as we want our children to be confident in their faith and identity as American Muslims, we have to accept that there is dangerous prejudice against Islam and Muslims today, especially in the United States. The February 2015 killings of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha in Chapel Hill, North Carolina made that clear.
While the incident is still under investigation, and many are calling the execution-style murders of the three young Muslims a “dispute over parking”, it is clear to many that there is far more to it than that. Some have argued that the fact that Yusor and Razan both wear Hijabs and were known to be Muslim made them easier targets than other neighbors, who had also faced issues over parking with the alleged killer, Craig Stephen Hicks.
Sign up your kids for self-defense, and try to find a class that teaches them how to disarm an armed attacker. It could save their life.
2. Learn CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
"And if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people...." (Quran 5:32)
What could be a more useful skill than one that helps preserves life itself? Check out your local Red Cross to find out where and when the next CPR class is being offered.
3. Anger management
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, was renown for his calm temperament and his ability to control anger. It is something we are also expected to incorporate in our lives and how we behave with others. A man once asked the Prophet to advise him. He gave only one piece of advice: Do not become angry. The Prophet repeated this more than once (Bukhari).
This is especially important given the amount of stress and pressure young Muslims face today. Apart from the usual issues relating to physical and emotional changes after puberty, bullying online and offline, as well as attacks on their faith and community can lead to frustration and anger. It is one major reason most of those easily recruited by extremist groups like ISIS are young men and, to a lesser degree, young women.
Control your anger and Allah is pleased with you, the Prophet is pleased with you, you benefit the Ummah, your country, and your world. Lose it, and you lose it all.
4. Better time management
How and what we spend our time on determines our success and failure in this life and the Next. This is why time management is such an essential skill for everyone. There are great resources on YouTube, as well as in countless books and articles that can help. An internet search under “time management for kids” provides many resources and ideas.
But go beyond expecting your kids to read and watch how it’s done, and help them draft a solid schedule that allows for fun and flexibility over the summer, as well as time to evaluate their time at the end of the day. Umar Ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, said, “Hold yourself accountable before you are held and weigh your deeds before they are weighed for you.” Encourage your kids to do this before bed daily.
Both boys and girls should know how to boil and fry an egg, make macaroni and cheese, and bake a pizza safely. But beyond that, knowing how to cook is a great skill once your kids have to leave the nest and begin life sans home cooking. Moreover, with the amount of chemicals and questionable ingredients found in so many foods on the market today, knowing how to cook is a healthier option as well.
This is another money saving skill to learn. Knowing how to sew a button and mend is the minimum kids should learn. It is also a Sunnah, as the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, used to sew his own clothes, mend his own shoes (Musnad Ahmad).
7. Writing a letter to the editor
This teaches assertiveness, clarity in thought, and basic writing skills all in one. All it requires is being able to write simple English. Find an article that your child feels strongly about in the local newspaper. Discuss it first, then put your thoughts down on paper. Then help him or her compose a letter to the editor and send it off. If it gets published, post it up on the fridge!
8. Writing a business letter
Teaching your child how to write a business letter is simple, and your son or daughter will thank you for it once he or she reaches college and the workplace. You can find samples online, but one great reference book is Writing Business Letters for Dummies by Sheryl Lindsell-Roberts. Once you've looked at a couple of samples, practice writing one. For instance, have your high schooler write to a teacher requesting a recommendation letter for college.
Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, emphasized teaching children how to swim. It is not only great exercise and fun, but it could also save your life. Check out your local park district or gym for lessons.
10. Managing money
Help your kids avoid problems like debt, impulsive shopping, and overspending by teaching them money management skills this summer. If you already don't, start giving your child a weekly allowance. Then, help him or her draft a budget of how to spend and save. Also, make sure they give to charity.
11. Keeping house
This means overseeing the efficient functioning of your home. Make your older children in charge of managing meals, getting laundry done, mowing the lawn, and keeping the place clean for one week. Parents and other siblings are helpers. This will give your kids an appreciation of how hard it is to run a household, as well as training for the job in the future. It will also teach them valuable leadership skills, as well as the importance of teamwork.
12. Volunteering for a cause
Giving and not receiving any monetary return is a skill critical in our increasingly materialistic culture. Assess your child's skills, talents, and interests, and find a volunteer opportunity for him or her this summer. Some ideas include: helping peace and justice groups; helping younger kids learn English; making and delivering meals to an elderly person who cannot get out much; writing articles for a non-profit organization's website or helping with its technical aspects; answering phone calls, etc.